Wingnuts starting pitcher Ryan Hinson set the bar for his season two starts ago, when he struck out 13 and allowed one run in eight innings against New Jersey. It’s the performance to which the rest of Hinson’s outings will likely be compared.
There was no comparison between that game on May 23 and Hinson’s start on Monday against El Paso. Hinson wasn’t as sharp and the strikeout rarely came into play, but he took a two-hitter into the eighth inning and dominated the middle innings of Wichita’s 9-2 win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Hinson earned his second win and first since his season-debut on May 18. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his four starts and has allowed less than a baserunner per inning. Pitching behind two ex-major-leaguers in Wichita’s rotation, Jon Link and Chris Smith, Hinson is a No. 3 starter in name only.
"Every time I go out I feel like I’m an ace, I feel like I’m a No. 1 guy," said Hinson, whose ERA dropped to 2.52. "I know I have the stuff to be one, and that’s my mindset. I’m a competitor, I want to win, so 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, it doesn’t matter."
Hinson struck out three and had two walks, matching the total he surrendered in his three previous starts combined. The walks, though, were the product of an approach that remained steadfast throughout his start — Hinson refused to give in even when he fell behind in counts.
Both of the walks came on full counts, two of the five three-ball counts Hinson found himself in. Even when Hinson got behind or had runners on base, he stuck with his plan of forcing El Paso’s hitters to swing at pitches on the edge of the strike zone or slightly out of it.
The approach didn’t produce a high strikeout total, but it kept Hinson’s pitch count low enough for him to complete eight innings, and it produced weak contact that kept the Diablos hitless from innings 4-7.
"Striking out 13 is kind of hard," Hinson joked. "I was hoping they didn’t get too mad at me if I didn’t strike out 13. We struck out three or four or whatever it may be, but we got a win out of it. That’s really all that matters, is that we got a win. We played well all the way around tonight."
That all-around excellence included 12 hits and four walks for Wingnuts hitters, who used the deep counts they worked to find the most hittable pitches or two let the less-desirable ones go by for walks.
After stranding a pair of runners in the third inning, the Wingnuts broke through in the fourth, starting with C.J. Ziegler’s long leadoff homer to left. The next four batters all reached base, capped by a two-run single from David Amberson.
Wichita got to El Paso pitching in a variety of ways, collecting three infield hits, three doubles and executing a double steal that led to a pair of fourth-inning runs.
Newcomer Tim Rotola and Amberson executed a double steal that allowed Rotola to score and Amberson to move to third on a throwing error by El Paso catcher Moises Montero; Amberson later scored on a groundout to second with the infield in.
Every Wingnuts starter reached base, and Rotola and Amberson, Wichita’s Nos. 7 and 8 batters, combined for five hits, three runs and two RBIs.
"The bottom of the lineup is the piece we were looking for to extend the inning and get things going." Ziegler said of Wichita’s five-run fourth.
The Wingnuts scored two in the seventh on Ziegler’s double off the wall, and Jake Kahaulelio produced a two-run single in the eighth. The run support for Hinson was also different from his May 23 outing, when he took a 1-0 defeat.
With a favorable result Monday, the Wingnuts will take those unfavorable comparisons.
"He’s not letting anything affect him," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "That’s the big thing for any of these guys — don’t let it affect you, put it behind you, let your defense play behind you. Pretty good defense behind him, too. A good pitcher is going to go out there and get himself out of trouble."
|Gonzalez ss||3||0||0||1||Khoury ss||5||0||1||0|
|Corcino 3b||3||0||1||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||1||2||1|
|Joynt rf||4||0||0||0||Rodriguez dh||3||1||1||0|
|Cisneros 1b||4||0||0||0||Ziegler 1b||5||1||2||3|
|Einertson cf||3||0||0||0||Armstrong c||3||1||0||0|
|Muse lf||3||1||1||0||Nieves 3b||4||1||1||0|
|Ramirez dh||3||0||0||0||Rotola lf||4||2||2||0|
|Montero c||3||1||2||0||Amberson rf||4||1||3||2|
|Chacoa 2b||2||0||0||0||McDonald cf||3||1||0||0|
E—Joynt, Chacoa. DP—Wichita 1. LOB—El Paso 2, Wichita 7. 2B—Muse, Montero, Kahaulelio, Ziegler, Rotola. HR—Ziegler (7). SB—Rotola (1). CS—Amberson.
|Monasterios L,0-1||6 1/3||10||7||6||2||2|
WP — Hinson.
Umpires — Home, Art Thigpen; first, Derek Ivinski; third, Brian Urton.
T — 2:29. A — 3,083.